When my son, Grant, took college English, the professor on the first day told the students that they were required to have an editor to read over their papers before turning them in. He emphasized that he did NOT want to be the first person to see a student’s paper. Editors were his survival strategy.

Grant was not surprised; he had been taking my IEW classes for years, and I religiously apply Andrew Pudewa’s advice that all students should have editors. It only makes sense; after all, there are no world-class writers who do not have editors, and the higher one rises in the writing universe, the more editors he will collect.

Clash of Civilizations: Editor and Author

Often the relationship between writer and editor is tense. One of my favorite authors, Dr. Thomas Sowell, has some harsh things to say about editors in his witty, but thoughtful, article, “Some Thoughts about Writing“:

To say that my relationship with editors has not always been a happy one would be to completely understate the situation. To me, the fact that I have never killed an editor is proof that the death penalty deters. However, since nowadays we are all supposed to confess to shameful episodes in our past, I must admit that I was once an editor.

However, even Sowell has to admit the necessity of editors:

An author reviewing what he has written may automatically interpret ambiguous passages in the way he intended, while an editor can see that there are alternative meanings that accord with the words…An author may also subconsciously interpolate missing words, while an editor can more easily see that some words are missing.

Typographical errors are likewise easier to spot by someone who is unaware of what was meant and therefore must go by what was said…typos have an uncanny ability to survive readings and re-readings. If there is anything that could survive a nuclear attack, it is probably typographical errors.

Editors: An Unfortunate Necessity

Since even the most experienced writers need editors, why should we think that a student could get along without one? This is why all of my students must have a parent who agrees to serve as Editor. Here is Andrew Pudewa’s explanation of the role of Editor:

The difference between a mom and an editor is that an editor gives corrections without a lecture attached. An editor does not give grades; he helps prepare a piece for publication. He is an assistant rather than a teacher.

But I’m Not Qualified!

Sometimes parents worry that their own language skills are not equal to the task, but they find that is not true. My handbook and detailed checklists tell Editors what to look for. As the checklist starts off very simply in Level 1, increasing in complexity with each assignment, parents grow in their understanding and editing right along with the students.

Editors: The Brains of the Operation

I am not bragging when I say that my writing students, in general, go on to be highly successful in their writing endeavors, including students of every learning type and ability. It isn’t bragging because I can only take credit for, at most, one-third of their success. I certainly am a highly effective writing teacher; teaching writing is my passion. But my classes and materials aren’t sufficient to produce great writers.

The IEW method itself certainly deserves at least a third of the credit. It is the most sensible and effective way to become an excellent writer. Until I popped that first Structure and Style videotape into the VCR–yes, this is ancient history–and was transported into the fascinating world of IEW by Andrew Pudewa, I was never inspired to teach writing.

The real stars, though, are my students’ Editors. They are the ones who relentlessly correct, encourage, and brainstorm improvements with their students. They make sure their students stay on schedule with the Daily To-Do Lists (assignment sheets) so no one has to stay up all night finishing a paper because of procrastination. The Editors are the reason my students can expect to do well with any writing the future will throw at them.

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